Alphabest: Mega Drive – R

Alphabest: Mega Drive – R

It’s a relief to discover that the letter R is far better represented, when it comes to Mega Drive games at least, than Q ever was. Just two games there! Blimey.


Perhaps the first game to come to mind, for me at least, beginning with the letter R is Rolo to the Rescue. It’s yet another 16bit platformer (oh boy are there a lot of them), but it’s really very good. Cute and colourful, you play as Rolo the elephant and some of his other animal chums, each with different skills, through some slightly puzzley levels. It’s great to actually play, but let down really badly by being enormous, pretty difficult, and there’s no way of saving your game. Not even passwords. To complete it requires a single sitting of three or four hours, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

Shorter and easier is another platformer – Ristar. Whether it’s “rist-er” or “rhy-star” is up for debate, but what isn’t is how disappointing this marketed-to-replace-Sonic shambles is. Yuji Naka wanted something to best his previous creation, but the core mechanics of the game – grabbing stuff and smashing it into your face and/or smashing your face into it – aren’t as compelling as running very very fast and the whole game lacks fun. There’s a reason they never made a sequel, although in a parallel universe no doubt Ristar Adventure, Ristar Heroes, Ristar and the Black Knight and Ristar Generations exist. Shudder.

Several RBI Baseball games exist for the Mega Drive, so lets just ignore them. The same goes for Rugby World Cup because nobody likes rugby, especially in video game form.

Red Zone, a relatively late Mega Drive title, is a technically very impressive sort of cross between Desert Strike and The Chaos Engine. It does some clever graphical tricks to create a 3D look to the top-down game area, and manages normally off-limits sprite rotation and stuff. Unfortunately, the game itself doesn’t live up to the visuals and coding cleverness.

You know them people that made the Uncharted games? Naughty Dog? Well, they made an isometric RPG for the Mega Drive in the early 90s called Rings of Power. Like Uncharted[ref]Well OK, it might be quite good really.[/ref], and other Naughty Dog creations Crash Bandicoot[ref]No, that really was terrible.[/ref] and Jak and Daxter, it wasn’t very good. Start as you mean to go on, I suppose.

Speaking of terrible games, one of the worst of all time makes this list: Rise of the Robots. A one-on-one fighting game with robots, which sounds great in a Robot Wars sort of way, but in fact it’s slow, ugly, unresponsive and laughable up against Mortal Kombat 3 and Street Fighter II.

Middling games I’ll mention just so you don’t think I’ve forgotten them include Race Drivin’, Ranger-X, Robocop vs The Terminator and Rolling Thunder 2, which are all reasonable titles but aren’t going to make the cut due to various flaws. Ren & Stimpy: Stimpy’s Invention, is far less good, and although RoadBlasters and Rampart are both decent replicas of the arcade versions, the former is dull and the latter is missing the trackball of the coin-op.

Which leaves:

Rocket Knight AdventuresRocket Knight Adventures is one of the few Mega Drive platformers good enough to deserve a sequel. Fast, varied, gorgeous graphics and polished to within an inch of its life, with some massive bosses and clever levels, it’s one of Konami’s finest 16bit titles, which considering Konami were on fire back then, is quite a statement.

Road Rash IIRoad Rash II built upon the already amazing original by improving the graphics and combat, adding nitros, and including a couple of proper simultaneous two player modes. What’s not to love about punching cops off bikes? There was a third game on the Mega Drive, but it somehow lost its way leaving Road Rash II the best of the three.

Revenge of ShinobiThe Revenge of Shinobi is one the Mega Drive’s true classics. Gritty, difficult and stylish with its mecha-feudalist Japan vibe, it combines platforming and combat, with swords, kunai and several types of magic. Some great bosses and properly astounding music (one of the best Mega Drive soundtracks, in fact) make for a memorable experience.

And the Alphabest?

Although I think that Rocket Knight is perhaps more fun to play, the winner is The Revenge of Shinobi. It’s so iconic, and even though sequels, remakes, spin-offs and homages have been and gone, it’s still Revenge that everyone remembers. And that music.

And there we have it. Next time, the letter S, and boy are there a lot of them to get through.

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